History of Sexuality

Summer 2012
Course Number: 
GSWS 422 935
Monday 6:00pm-8:30pm


Secondary Program: 
Online Courses
Secondary Program: 
Master of Liberal Arts
Secondary Program: 
School of Arts and Sciences
Course Description: 

In this course, rather than simply debating changes in sexual practices over time, we will discuss the ways in which different Western societies in the past and present constructed sexual norms and understood normality and deviance in sexual terms. We will focus special attention on the following questions: To what extent are sexual identities constructed by different cultures, rather than simply being determined biologically? What influence do social, economic, and political conditions have on social constructions of sexuality? How have different societies used sexual norms to mark “natural” practices from “deviant” ones, and how are these norms connected to societies' power structures? We will explore case studies from Classical Greece through the contemporary United States. Our readings will explore topics such as intersections among the body, gender, sexuality, and science; change and continuity in same-sex relationships from classical Greece to medieval and early modern Europe to the contemporary United States; expectations for sexuality and reproduction within and outside marriage; hermaphrodites, vibrators, and the creation of sexual norms; Jack the Ripper and the tensions of urban life in late nineteenth-century London; culture wars and debates on sex education; and sexual revolutions, among others. Students will be expected to participate actively in class discussions and threaded discussions; to develop discussion questions and lead two class discussions; and to complete two short response papers and a longer review essay.

The course listing presented here is subject to change. Please confirm all information on the the University of Pennsylvania Registrar's website or via Penn InTouch (PennKey required)